Earth Day began in 1970 as a way to raise awareness about the links between pollution and public health, and it continues to be celebrated annually on April 22. Every year, knowledge about the environment – and efforts to protect it — have grown and today, around the globe, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day activities.

Here in Texas, the three-day-long Earth Day Texas event is the largest of its kind in the world. It’s a celebration of environmental progress and innovations that can help all of us make Eco-friendly choices 365 days a year.

Where to begin? There’s no place like home! Here are 9 things you can do around the house that can reduce your energy use and help make every day Earth Day.

1) Think About Your Thermostat.

By paying attention to where you and your family are at different times of the day, you can make small adjustments to the thermostat that can result in big savings.

Is everyone out during the day? Set it so the AC or heat comes on less often. Let ceiling fans help with cooling and a cozy blanket to help keep you warm at night.  Technology can help as well with new “smart” thermostats. (See below)

2) Seek out Smart Home Products.

Light bulbs that last 50 times longer, wall outlets that let you control lights and devices from afar, thermostats that “learn” from you, and refrigerators that tell you when you need milk. Those products and more are available now.

3) Audit Your Energy Use.

Several retail electric providers now give you a way to audit, or assess, your energy use, then figure out ways to save.  A home energy audit might include checking for air leaks, looking at amount and type of insulation used in your home, inspecting the HVAC system, water heater and other appliances. Being smarter about how you’re using energy can help you use less and save more money.

Leading energy providers like Direct Energy offer their Texas customers the ability to give their home a free energy audit, with a report telling them how much they can save and how to get the biggest bang for their buck.

If you’d like to give your home the energy audit it deserves, check out Direct Energy’s learning center.  No matter how low your energy bill might already be there are additional ways to continue to lower it!

4) Pick a Green Plan.

When you sign up with an electric provider, ask about a “green” option. Most provide one, and if yours doesn’t, find one that does. Signing up to go green doesn’t mean your energy will come directly from alternative sources. It does mean that your monthly payment will go toward maximizing the amount of green energy available overall.

5) Be Nice to your Neighbors.

Texas summers can be uncomfortably hot – especially for those who have to limit the use of an air conditioner to save on electric bills. If you’d like to help out by chipping in an extra dollar or two on your bill, check with your provider about any “neighbor-to-neighbor” plans in which you can participate.

6) Wait for the Weekend.

For a lot of Texans, weekends are at-home time. No work, hanging out with family and friends both in and out of the house. That’s why electric bills can be higher on weekends, and why many electric providers offer a “free weekends” plan. With these programs, you can save energy-intensive tasks (like laundry) – for the no-fee weekend.

If you tend to do a ton of high energy usage activities – cooking, cleaning, laundry during your weekend, be sure to check out Direct Energy’s Free Power Weekends plan, which offers the most free weekend hours in Texas!

7) Cold Wash is Okay.

While you may have learned to wash your whites in hot water, it’s probably not necessary. With the advancements and efficiencies in newer washers, you can save the cost of heating up that water, keep the temp on cold, and still have everything come out clean and bright.

8) Throw Some Shade (On Your Windows)!

Big windows are great for bringing in the light – and the heat. Awnings can reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%. When completely closed, and lowered on a sunny window, slat-style window blinds can reduce heat gain by 45%, while draperies with white plastic backing can cut the heat by 33%.

9) Dig Into your Data.

Right now, there are innovative products being developed that can help homeowners track their energy usage and better understand their bill.   Direct Energy offers its “Direct Your Energy” suite of tools. By seeing and understanding how and where you use energy, you can make decisions that help lower your overall bill.

Plus, the Direct Your Energy insights are sent straight to your inbox as Weekly Usage Summary e-mail. From week to week, you can see if your home’s electricity usage went up or down, and make necessary adjustments to help manage your costs.